Saturday, January 30, 2010

Decode: Digital Design Sensations

Decode: Digital Design Sensations at the V&A is a visually stunning feast of frequently interactive delights. Some of the exhibits exist in a state of perpetual evolution, triggered by external factors such as the wind or sales figures on the Stock Exchange whilst others are directly influenced by the action/interaction of the audience.
Body Paint by Mehmet Akten is a large scale interactive installation in which the movements of the audience are translated into colour washes or explosions on the digital screen. Whilst the audience doesn't appear to have any control over the colours they rapidly discover the effects produced by a range of gestures, from subtle flicks of the fingers to expansive sweeps of the arm. Dandelion by YOKE is another responsive piece where the audience uses a hairdryer (which houses a hidden infrared beam) to blow away the seeds from a Dandelion head. Almost ethereal in its beauty this piece belies the complexity of the programming required to produce such graceful motion.
Stockspace by Marius Watz is also driven by external influences but this time it is the Stock Market. The animations are shown in real time with the colours and shapes that are formed being in response to fluctuations in economic trading. I was particularly taken with this rendering which reminded me of files, and papers, in a rotary filing stack that has exploded. Great fun to watch but I would love to have seen a link to the reality of the stock market trading floors.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Earth: Art of a changing world

Earth: Art of a changing world at the Royal Academy of Arts is an interesting mix of established and emerging artists.
Chris Jordan's 'Paper Bags'
was my favourite piece in the show. Jordan is a digital artist who draws heavily on statistics to inform his work. This piece references the 1.14 million paper bags used in American supermarkets every hour. From a distance there is the impression of looking through the branchless trunks of a forest of silver birch trees. Closer inspection reveals layer upon layer of stacked paper resembling an ever increasing archival stack that holds untold secrets.
Cornelia Parker's 'Heart of Darkness' is formed from the charred remains of a Florida forest fire. This piece benefited from being given plenty of time for contemplation. The work is a very delicate balance of small twigs and weightier limbs that interact to produce a subtly kinetic whole. The tiny movements elicited by the buildings air conditioning are a gentle reminder of the way in which our perception of events is mediated by the passage of time.
Sophie Calle's 'North Pole' is a poignant tribute to her late mother. Among her mother's three unfulfilled wishes was a visit to the North Pole. Calle used a research trip to Cape Farewell to take some of her mothers treasured possessions and bury them on the edge of the glacier. This process is documented in a series of photographs and three sandblasted porcelain plaques in the shape of the port holes through which she first observed the glacier.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

New York 2010 - Final thoughts

I'm not really a city girl - a week is plenty for me but this visit has been fascinating I just wish it was closer so that I could visit more often.
The people were very friendly and helpful, the midtown area was very clean and had lots of 'formal' art but the cheaper areas such as Soho were more individual and perhaps more interesting.
One thing that did fascinate us was the American advertising; on television a company can attack its competitors by name.
We were amazed to see a giant hoarding showing the image of the plane that came down in the Hudson River being used in advertising. The event must have been horrific for those involved and this commercialisation of it seems quite demeaning.

On another corner of Times Square was a hoarding showing President Obama at the Great Wall of China wearing a particular brand of Jacket. There was quite a to-do going on in the press about the use of the President's image to promote a company but the advert was still there when we left.
On a lighter note, we were highly amused by the way that British car show Top Gear was being promoted to the American viewing audience as 'the funniest car show ever', true as it might be I suspect it's not quite how the presenters would like it to be promoted - especially not on the side of a bus!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

New York 2010 - Fashion Institute of Technology

The New York Fashion Institute of Technology holds an excellent collection of fashion artifacts.

They are currently showing two exhibitions; 'Night and Day' and 'American Beauty' .
'Night and Day' looks at the changing attitudes to dress over the last 250 years. The exhibition reveals the evolution of the rules that govern fashion for particular times of day, including eras when strictly observed etiquette was the norm and other times when more flexible guidelines prevailed. Both of the dresses in the picture are by Dior, on the left is an afternoon dress in silk taffeta and on the right an evening dress in silk satin (1950's).
'American Beauty' is dedicated to the work of American designers.
In the embellishment section it was Rodarte (sisters Kate and Laura Lulleavy) who really stood out.
Their style includes gothic and distressed designs, and layered gowns with fabrics dyed by Edwina Pellikka.
On the left of the picture is a marbelised grey leather dress from their fall 2009 collection. On the right is an evening dress in steam dyed silk and mohair yarn that has overtones of gothic in the black with blood red streaks.

For me the star of the Geometries section was Yeohlee Teng. In 'Infanta' and unitard the is skirt formed from two layers of circles allowing the rear of the upper layer to be raised over the shoulders as a wrap (see upper mannequin). The label said Black Silk Gazar which didn't mean a lot to me but the fabric draped beautifully. Simple in principle, stunning in practice.
In the Constructed section Anna was very taken with the work of Rick Owen as demonstrated by the three fur jackets in the exhibition. These include the use of mink, fox and goat embellished with horsehair finishing details.
FIT is in the Fashion District where there are plaques in the sidewalk marking the contributions of Americans who have made a significant impact on the fashion world, such as Halston.
red dress called American Beauty Rose (right) gives the exhibition its name.
Roy Halston Frowick began his fashion career as a milliner - he designed the hat Jacqueline Kennedy wore to 1961's Presidential Inauguration. His move into womens wear was marked by an easy elegance that was adopted by the jet set.
Also in this area is this wonderful, larger than life, statue dedicated to the normally forgotten garment workers of the area

New York 2010 - Cooper Hewitt

Warmed up a bit on Tuesday, only -5c. Took a leisurely wander up Madison and Park Avenues so that Anna could make notes on current men's fashion trends in the up-market shops. Turned out not to be such a good ideas as by the time we got there the Guggenheim was heaving - decided to give it a miss and moved on to the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum which was delightfully quiet.
Unfortunately they had only one gallery open but this housed a retrospective of the Design Awards so was well worth visiting.
Tod Williams & Billie Tsien Architects experimented with molten bronze on metal mesh to form the facade of the American Folk Art Museum. Described on their website as; an idiosyncratic home for idiosyncratic art. The metallic facade catches the glow of the rising and setting sun and offers subtle shifts of colour as the weather changes through the day.

This is another stunning building that takes you by surprise among the standard glass box skyscrapers.

Ned Khan's Wind Silos project won the Landscape Design award in 2005. I though that the information from his website was fascinating: Wind Silos - International Trade Center, Charlotte, North Carolina. 2006. An 80’ tall by 450’ long facade of a parking structure was covered with a series of undulating metal screens evocative of grain silos. The corrugated and perforated stainless steel screens that form the silo structures were designed to allow ventilation of the parking structure while creating a visual screen.
A 16’ tall band, composed of thousands of wind-activated, 6-inch diameter stainless steel disks, runs the entire length of the facade, rising and falling with the contours of the silos. The polished surfaces of the disks capture the colors of the sky and sunlight.

Another group that caught my eye were Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis Architects. LTL have produced a number of superb interiors including Tides Restaurant in New York.
I was particularly taken with the use of bamboo skewers to create the sculptural ceiling

Later in the day we took a trip down to Union Square so that I could see the 'Big Bang' sculpture. At the very top is a hand, symbolising the hand of God, below this is the explosion on sun and shock waves of the 'big bang'. At the bottom is a chunk of rock that symbolises the Earth, the long line stands for the passage of time.

New York 2010 - Happy Birthday

Monday was Anna's birthday and once again cold (only -8c) but dry. Began the day at the Ugg store to buy her birthday present(s).
Whilst in the area we looked in at a shop that sells hand made shoes (more my style than Anna's). At the back was this lovely hexagonal weave basketwork lampshade which was casting wonderful shadows.
In the same area were some of the most beautiful fire escapes

We then took a ride on the Staten Island Ferry which gives good views of the Statue of Liberty and the classic New York skyline. I think that the old ferry terminal is much nicer than the new one but I'm only admiring the architecture not trying to get through it at rush hour!

During the day there are only two ferries operating but this at least double at peak periods .
The afternoon was spent looking at architecture and in shop windows. We came across the 'Love' sculpture by Robert Indiana which had originally been designed as a Christmas card for MOMA and has since also appeared on an American postage stamp.
It was on this walk that Anna spotted the relief on the Diesel store front which was to finalise her decision on where her masters project is going - relief work, in fur, on men's shoes (should be interesting!)
Rounded the day off with dinner at 'Robert', the new restaurant on the 9th floor of the Museum of Arts and Design - an excellent choice.

New York 2010 - New Museum of Contemporary Art

The New Museum of Contemporary Art is a beautiful contemporary building that houses thought provoking exhibitions.
Currently on display is a multi floor exhibition by Urs Fischer entitled 'Marguerite de Ponty' which we were advised to view from the top downwards.
The fourth floor is taken over by five gigantic aluminium forms. These began life as small pieces of clay, squeezed and moulded by the artist and them cast at 50 times their original size. Each one is named after a pseudonym used by French poet Stephane Mallarme. Questioning reality, perception and time these pieces set the tone for the whole exhibition.
The third floor appears almost empty, at first it seems to only contain a lilac rendering of a collapsing Grand Piano and a suspended croissant with a butterfly on it.
On much closer inspection Fischers sense of humour is revealed. The ceiling is covered with a printed replica ceiling showing false beam, wiring and light fittings.
This theme continues around the walls where every fixture from light switches through vents and Exit signs has a printed replica displayed slightly offset from the original. Hence in the photograph the upper vent is real and the lower one a printed replica. The red 'smudge' on the wall below the Exit sign is an image of the sign viewed end-on.
The second floor houses an installation of fifty mirrored chrome steel boxes of varying sizes. Each has been screen printed with enlarged photographs of a single object from different views. Although laid out like city blocks the mirrored surfaces and distorted scales produce a disorienting effect that is compounded by the reflections of reflections.

New York 2010 - Empire State Building

Sunday was our coldest day at -11c.
The fountain at Bryant Park was even more beautiful with its extra layer of icicles.
From here we made our way to the Empire State Building. Fortunately we had decided to arrive as soon as it opened, having seen the length of the area roped off for potential queueing we probably wouldn't have bothered going up if we had arrived later! Interestingly the security here was almost as tight as at the airports leaving America.
As expected the views from the top were excellent on such a clear day.
To the north west the view was enhanced by the shadow of the building itself.

The view north takes in Central Park

Looking north east revealed the Chrysler Building glistening in the bright sunshine

Turning towards the south west Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty are revealed

New York 2010 - Slash: Paper under the Knife

'Slash: Paper under the knife' is another superb exhibition in the Museum of Arts and Design series that makes an examination of current trends in traditional techniques. I had seen work from a few of the artists before but most were new to me.
Adam Fowler's untitled 74 layers graphite on paper begins life as a series of overlapping lines drawn on paper at a certain density. Each sheet is then cut away (by hand) to leave only the pencil marks. These sheets are then layered to complete the work. Apparently the darker lines tend to be of a slightly broader width. The labour invested in Adam's work is immense and the skill level incredibly accurate. The true depth of this piece can not be seen in a photograph, the subtle honeycomb of voids is only revealed on really close inspection. Dylan Graham (first seen in Brugges at Kantlijnen), On first encountering this piece (across the room) I was surprised by the use of bright red paper, however it soon became apparent that this piece was deeply engaged with China. The emergent Year of the Tiger is represented alongside other signs of the Chinese zodiac and balanced by the rotations of the planets. The traditional pair of dragons represent the old ways but China is one of the great emergent powers and is fighting hard to balance the old and the new. Communism, Colonialism and Capitalism are all fighting for their place in China's New Order.
Ariana Boussard-Reifel's cut and altered book 'Between the Lines' appears quite innocuous to the casual viewer but hides a deeper meaning. The book has every word removed and these are presented in a heap beside it, interestingly one of the words at the top of the pile was 'question'. At first glance the book appears to be a cheap paperback but she refers to it as a 'white supremacists bible' and is questioning the way in which words can be twisted to hide sinister meanings.
Noriko Ambe's 'Flat File Globe' 3A is not identical to the one shown here but works on the same principle. In the displayed version the top six drawers open as a single unit and it is possible to look down through the deep contours of the cut paper as if taking an aerial view of some vast canyon that has carved its way through the accumulated papers of someones life. This piece has truly archival resonances as well as being highly appealing visually.
Olafur Eliasson's 'Your House' has 454 pages hand bound to form a book. Worked at a scale of 85:1 it is a negative version of an architectural model. Shown above the book is a stop motion video of the pages turning and taking the viewer on a tour through the house.

New York 2010 - Museum of Arts and Design

The highlight of my trip to New York was the Museum of Arts and Design. Not only does it have an excellent permanent collection but at present is showing 'Slash - Paper under the Knife' which includes much work that I consider to be lace.
Of the pieces from the permanent collection that are currently on display I particularly liked:- 'Cylinder Form' a plaited basket, in English calfskin, by Ken Carlson. It not only interests me technically but has a natural beauty as it spirals unevenly around.

Close by is this stoneware plate by Robert Sperry. 'Plate # 754' is described as; stoneware, slip, glaze, jiggered. I think with this piece it's the juxtaposition between the strong geometric elements and the naturalism of the sweeping stroke that crosses the centre of the form.

Jin-Sook So's untitled wall hanging is quite mesmerising to behold. Formed from steel mesh and enhanced with goldleaf the visible surface of the pleats changes from silver to gold as the units twist sinuously from one section to another. This is further accentuated by the way that the piece forms a trough in the centre, rising to peaks at the four points surrounding it.

I could stand a look at Sakiyama Takayuki's stoneware form 'Choto: Listening to the Waves' for hours. The gentle rhythmic swirl is so evocative of the soft sound of tiny waves subtly shifting the minute grains of white sand around the edge of a rock at low tide - just wonderful.
The numerous vessels that form Tony Marsh's 'Still Life' (Perforated Vessel Series) form a cohesive whole and yet are individually complete. These white, perforated, earthenware vessels would throw wonderful shadows but the are not lit to do so, I would also love to see them lit from within. What the viewer is being asked to consider is the form of each piece and its relationship to those around it.

On the subject of ceramics - Anna's favourite piece was this superb sculpture by Marilyn Levine, 'Anne's Jacket' which only reveals itself to be ceramic, not leather, if you read the information label.

In the stairwell was an installation by Mary Temple. 'First Week' is part of her 'Light Installations' series that began in 2002. The light and shadows from the windows seems to be raking the walls - it's an illusion, there are no trees on this side of the building. The hand painted trompe l'oeil image asks the viewer to question what they are seeing. The image is taken from Central Park in the first week that the trees began to bud. A frame of time specific to that place and day has been transposed from exterior to interior in this incredibly subtle piece.